Welcome to the first post in a new series, in which the owners of small and start-up businesses talk to me about the ways they use social media and the difference it has (or hasn’t) made to their business.

All sorts of entrepreneurs will be appearing here –  from business coaches to web designers and anyone in between. If you would like to be featured, just get in touch.

 

Nothing But Tea logoFirst up is Quinnan Stone, director of Nothing But Tea, an online wholesaler and retailer in fine and specialist teas.  The business was established in 2002 – before the advent of social media, so Quinnan has the benefit of getting on board very early.  Over the past year, she has greatly increased her social media activity and has seen a 20% increase in sales, which she directly attributes to this new direction.

What social media do you use for your business?

Nothing But Tea uses Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.  We started out with social media in 2007 on Facebook. However, we left Facebook once they started altering the reach of company pages.

What forms of promotion and customer communication did you use before?

We have been sending a monthly email since 2003. That, and our website, were the only forms of promotion and communication that we used.

What are the benefits of social media for a business?

For a start it is cheap and easy to use.  I am not comfortable with the hard sell form of marketing, the new trend for relationship marketing suits me much better and social media is great for that.  Relationship marketing is much more enjoyable than hard selling and as an online business, it’s a great way to get to know customers, and for them to get to know us. I am no longer just a name on the bottom of an email.

What are the disadvantages?

It needs time and constant attention. It is also a continually evolving field, so keeping up with what’s needed can be a challenge.

What is your social media strategy?

I try to post daily with a mixture of tea-related articles and marketing. I set aside time to go through and interact with people twice a day.

What difference do you think it has made to your business?

It has boosted sales considerably. Many new customers are finding us through social media nowadays.  I am able to manage the customer service side much better as well. When there is a problem for a customer, it’s not the problem itself so much as how you deal with it that makes the difference. Social media makes it possible to react fast and deal with a complaint very quickly. If you can do that, then customers are more likely to stay with you.

What would you recommend to someone starting out with social media?

I’d say that Twitter is the best network at the moment, although it’s also the hardest to get to grips with.  I use a number of tools to save time. Prismatic and Feedly are great for finding content and Buffer is really useful for posting. You can set up posts in advance to most social networks, and add posts into it from anywhere on the web.  I then reorganise them to go out in different orders and at different times on each network. I don’t think you want to be posting the same thing at the same time across all networks, I think that looks a little lazy. Buffer has a shuffle tool so you can reorganise your posts so that the same content goes out at different times on different networks.

 

Quinnan Stone

 

Quinnan is the director of Nothing But Tea Ltd, an online shop that sells, you guessed it, nothing but tea (and tea related things).  Try some real tea for a taste revelation – you’ll never use a teabag ever again!